"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

'I've never had a geography course'

"I've never had a geography course."
So said a senior in my International Media class this week, after I gave them a blank map quiz on Asia, and posted another of Southeast Asia for next week...mistakenly putting it on this blog, instead of the class blog, ClarkInternational.
We started with the Mideast, then South America, Europe and then to Asia. Next on tap will be Africa.
One student said he'd last had geography in eighth grade. I don't understand. I'll admit, with the breakup of the Soviet union and independence of many African Nations, I don't know all the countries, but I sure know most of them, and especially all those who are in the news.
It tells me something about our education and politics that students no longer know basic geography--we are becoming more isolated  and provincial as we are being more affected by the rest of the world.
I'll admit, filling in a map doesn't make you less provincial and ethnocentric. Only travel will do that, but still, howcab to function in this world without some grasp of "Where"?
"How can you function in this world without some grasp of 'Where'?"
One of the students quipped, asking for a map of the United States. I shot back, "Ok, and also name all the capitals." They balked.
I learned all that stuff in seventh or eighth grade when it mattered a whole less than it does now. Come to think of it, I think I'll give the students a blank map of the U.S., without state borders, and make them draw them, label them and name the capitals.
I'll admit, I also grew up in a home with National Geographic maps on the walls, and have been fascinated with maps ever since. They hint of places I can only dream of, of places I want to go, of faraway places and peoples and stories.
You don't get that perspective of a big world with a GPS system or a computer...especially if you don't know where countries are in relation to each other.
I know, I'm a dinosaur, and the students probably get amused and talk about me, when I start telling them about why Korea split, or Vietnam and a brick from the Hanoi Hilton that is in Oklahoma City (few know what the Hanoi Hilton was). But that is precisely why I incorporate these map quizzes in my International Media class. Thus the map of Southeast Asia.

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